Last week in this continuing walkthrough of D&D’s excellent “Out of the Abyss” campaign, the group made their way from Gracklestugh to Blingdenstone. The group consists of Navarre (half-elf rogue), Varys (half-drow ranger), Zinaella (half-elf paladin), Barakus (tiefling monk), and Brynn (gnome wizard).
After escaping the flooding temple with their new friend Glabagool (a sentient gelatinous cube), the group approached Blingdenstone. The tunnels had been sloping consistently upwards. This part of the journey was uneventful, although they spent one entire day hearing horrid shrieking from side passages. After a few more days, two deep gnomes appeared out of nowhere and ordered the group to halt.
Seeing Topsy with them—and apparently in no danger—they brought the group into an obscured tunnel nearby. They realized this was a deep gnome mine, and soon met Dasco Pickshine, the owner. The group introduced themselves to him, and told him of their journey. Dasco offered to let the group tag along on an ore shipment he had bound for Blingdenstone if they could provide protection.
They agreed, and were about to leave when Zinaella noticed a hand slipping into his pack. He grabbed the would-be deep gnome thief. Dasco was horrified, and Topsy noted how unheard of theft is among the deep gnomes. Dasco motioned to two guards, who proceeded to beat the thief mercilessly. All of the group knew this was also strange. They ran into a bit more trouble when they introduced Glabbagool to the deep gnomes, but they managed to convince them their friend was safe.
Everyone boarded the wagon with the ore shipment, where another deep gnome was waiting. Dasco introduced her as Nomi Pathshutter, who maintained the deep gnome’s earth elemental summoning stations. After hearing of the group’s travels, she told them of Ogremoch’s Bane—an evil force that corrupted elementals. She asked them for samples of any insane earth elementals they encountered.
The group travelled for half a day when suddenly two pools of strange-looking liquid rose up and attacked. They raced to what they realized were ochre jellies, but the group kept slashing at the jellies with their weapons. This caused the jellies to split and multiply, till there were soon over half a dozen attacking them. Eventually the group realized what was happening, switched their tactics, and destroyed all the jellies. Dasco thanked them for their help, and noted that attacks by oozes and the like were increasing in frequency.
They arrived at the gates of Blingdenstone, thick steel doors set high above the tunnel. Guards called down, asking for the group’s names and information. Dasco vouched for them, gaining them entry, but the guards refused to allow a gelatinous cube—even a friendly one—into the city. Glabbaool agreed to wait outside.
The group dismounted, and the cart was moved onto a lift that rose high up the cavern well. They ascended the narrow steps and entered into the gates. Guards led them through a maze pockmarked with murder holes. They then took them a narrow passage with slots for archers at either end.
They were beginning to feel intimidated—with memories of the dour duergar city in their minds—when they entered Blingdenstone itself. It was the first time they truly felt welcome in the Underdark. Warm light illuminated cozy homes dug into the walls, and friendly—but wary—deep gnomes moved about in every direction. Dasco said he had to unload his goods, but pointed the group towards the Traders’ Grotto market and the temple [Navarre wanted to find a way to get rid of his curse].
The group headed to the temple first, and found a friendly acolyte. After listening to their situation, he said the priest could likely help, but was away until tomorrow. While there, they laid to rest the remains of the deep gnome whose ghost they encountered in Gracklestugh. Suddenly, a ghost rose out of the ground. The group was friendly, and soon found out this was one of the deep gnomes who fell in a long-ago battle with the drow. The ghost mentioned some of his fellow ghosts remained lost and hostile, and asked the group to help. After agreeing, they decided to head to the Traders’ Grotto. This was a magnificent area, full of petrified mushrooms of all sizes.
They waded through the crowds and the stalls until they found Werz Saltbaron, the merchant they were tasked with bringing gems to in Gracklestugh. He acted very strangely when they showed him the gems, ordering the group to keep them out of sight. Realizing he was involved in something shady, the group managed to get double the payment he offered.
Heading away from the grumbling Werz, the group stopped short as they saw a deep gnome guard rise into the air. As the crowd around them screamed and ran, they realized what had happened: two gelatinous cubes had broken into the city! The group moved to attack.
They first tried to get the guard free. Barakus stuck an iron bar he had into the cube for the guard to grab, but he couldn’t reach it. Then Zinaella and Navarre tried slashing the cube open, but it kept reforming.
Meanwhile, the cubes had surrounded the group, and one lunged at Navarre, engulfing him. He took significant damage as the cube began to digest him; the group could also see the guard was near death.
They doubled their efforts, focusing on killing the cubes. A series of punishing blows from Barakus and Zinaella, and well-placed arrows from Varys managed to kill the cube containing the guard. He fell forward, nearly dead. Meanwhile, Brynn focused her offensive spells on the cube with Navarre, killing it just as he was about to fall unconscious.
The Traders’ Grotto erupted in cheers as the deep gnomes surrounded the heroes. The guard they saved led the crowd in thanking their new heroes, and the party was carried off to the Foaming Mug, Blingdenstone’s tavern.
The owner gave the group free food and drinks, and they celebrated deep into the night. The next morning, they were awoken at a horribly early hour by an insistent knocking on the door. A young deep gnome told them they were summoned by Senni and Dorbo Diggermattock, the city’s leaders. Fighting off their hangovers, the group headed out into the city.
The Diggermattocks were waiting in the assembly hall, surrounded by guards and retainers. They thanked the group for their efforts. In turn, the group asked for help reaching the surface. The deep gnomes informed them they could lead them to the elf temple they had heard about, which led to the surface, but could not spare any guides now: the city was in danger.
Blingdenstone was under attack by hordes of oozes, as the group had noticed. They needed to figure out why this was occurring or they would be unable to secure the city. Additionally, a group of wererats had seized part of the city. The deep gnomes and the wererats frequently skirmished, further heightening the city’s insecurity. The group offered to do what they could, and the deep gnomes told them of two operations they had planned. [I liked my dialogue here, so I am including it]
Senni said, “one mission would be to investigate the source of the ooze attacks.”
Dorbo, whispered to her, “tell them the name of it, tell them the name.”
Senni, sighed. “It’s Operation: ooze there.” All the deep gnomes, except Senni, giggled.
Dorbo then added, “the other is “Operation Exterminate.”
“With a question mark,” Senni cut in
Dorbo sighed. “Yes, with a question mark.”
The group was tasked with uncovering the source of the ooze attacks, and determining how much of a threat the wererats posed (and whether they needed to be driven from the city).
Before heading out, they stopped by the temple to find the priest. The priest was friendly, although he kept launching into long-winded lectures until his acolyte interrupted him. He said he would like to help rid Navarre of his curse, but was wary of crossing Lolth without more power. Their original temple had been defiled, weakening his connection to their deity. The priest therefore asked the group to cleanse their temple with a spell gem. The temple was in a portion of the city infected with Ogremoch’s Bane, so no one had been able to accomplish this task yet.
The group then set out on their quest. They first visited the wererat’s territory. The deep gnome guards reluctantly opened the doors that barred the passageway, then quickly locked it after the group went through. They sneak forward carefully, coming to a fork. One direction smelled foul, the other less foul, so the group turned in the less foul direction.
Suddenly four poison arrows shot out of the wall, all flying directly at Zinaella. He panicked, and didn’t even try to dodge as they all hit him [really bad dexterity check], causing him to pass out. Four wererats surrounded the group, and moved to attack.
Thinking quickly, the group began trying to talk down the guards. They promised they didn’t come for a fight, and even offered to put down their weapons if they can handle this peacefully. The wererats agreed [good persuasion checks], and took the disarmed group (dragging the limp Zinaella) to their leader.
There the group met Goldwhisker, the portly leader of the wererats. He explained they are deep gnomes afflicted with lycanthropy, and moved to this abandoned area. They resented the deep gnomes’ attempts to steal their territory, especially as they considered themselves as part of the city’s defenses. Specifically, they said they are under constant attacks by oozes and might have to flee soon. This would leave Blingdenstone even more insecure.
Goldwhisker said he wants reassurance that the Diggermattocks will let them live, and he’ll help the city against the oozes. The group agreed and returned to the deep gnome leadership. Unfortunately, the Diggermattocks were not convinced, and needed more proof of the wererats’ willingness to help [bad persuasion checks].
So the group returned to Goldwhisker, and convinced him to give them more to work with. He agreed to take the group through a secret passageway into the ooze-held area, to show them what they’re up against. The group followed, and saw hundreds of oozes gathered in a cavern. Beyond that was a strange-looking deep gnome who seemed to be able to command the oozes. With this new information, the group headed back [I’ll discuss this below, but I got a little lost in the book here—it was unclear how Goldwhisker would show them this, so I improvised]
As they were returning, they heard a voice calling for help from a side passage in broken Undercommon. The group rushed forward, and saw a black pudding advancing on a dust mephit and an earth elemental. The group attacked.
Zinaella, Barakus and Navarre all managed to hit the pudding, but the effects were not what they hoped. Acid sprayed onto all of them as they hit the ooze, injuring them. And when Zinaella slashed the pudding with his sword, it broke into two separate oozes [Barakus used his fists (ouch) and Navarre used the mace they got from Glabbagool]. Brynn, meanwhile, cast a ray of frost at the ooze, which fizzled and did nothing. So Varys showered the pudding with arrows until both halves of it shriveled up and died.
The dust mephit was very thankful. It explained that it and his friend—the elemental—were trying to leave the city when they were cornered by the pudding. They were treated well in Blingdenstone, and wanted to help, so they told the group of some information they had picked up in their travels: the location of Entemoch’s Boon. The pair them headed off into a side passage.
The group then returned to the Diggermattocks and told them what they found. The deep gnomes decided to hold a council, and invited the wererats. Also in attendance were Nomi Pathshutter, the friendly ghosts the group had encountered, the priest and acolyte, and representatives of the city’s armory.
The council quickly realized the seriousness of the threat they faced. The ghosts suggested freeing several of their number from evil influence, and the ghosts could join in. Nomi, meanwhile, argued that more earth elementals are needed, and finding Entemoch’s Boon would help. The priest then chimed in, and suggested cleansing his temple would also help.
The Diggermattocks then turned to the group and asked for their further help. The group agreed, and offered to sneak past the oozes to take care of the Pudding King while the main force of the deep gnomes attacks. They also said they met a nice dust mephit who was friends with all the deep gnomes; at this the assembly burst out laughing at this ridiculous idea [I was getting tired, and thought it’d be funny for no one to know what the group was talking about]. The group brushed this off, and said they had the location for Entemoch’s Boon, at which the assembly was amazed.
The group also pushed the Diggermattocks to let the wererats stay in the city. The leadership was skeptical [the group kept rolling bad persuasion checks]. Eventually, Varys suggested they decide based on pure military necessity; they needed extra personnel and defenses, and the wererats would provide this. This convinced the DIggermattocks, and they reluctantly agreed to peace with the wererats [I let each group member come up with a reason to let the wererats stay and roll persuasion, Varys rolled well].
The council adjourned. The deep gnomes and wererats would begin preparations for the attack. While that was occurring, the group were tasked with helping improve their capabilities. They must find Entemoch’s Boon and cleanse the temple to aid in summoning Earth Elementals, and deal with the hostile ghosts to free up the ghosts to join in.
The group returned to the Foaming Mug for another good meal, and a good night’s sleep in preparation for the…Battle for Blingdenstone!
Just a few closing thoughts on this part of the adventure, as this post is getting long. I stuck with the middle of the road approach to random encounters on the travel; I used the set encounters and then a few random encounters that seemed fun (meeting the Society of Brilliance, the gas leak). This definitely was my preferred route. The set encounters are great, so it would be a shame to miss them. But unless the group really wants a long adventure in which they immerse themselves in the Underdark, I’d be sparing with the random encounters.
Blingdenstone was my favorite of the three settlements the group visited. It had varied encounters and will build to a great climax (unlike Gracklestugh). As I mentioned, I got a bit lost with Goldwhisker telling the group about the Pudding King. That was one of the many areas in which the book may just want DMs to improvise.
Finally, a programming note: my group decided to do one more session with Out of the Abyss then shuffle things up (including giving me a break from DM-ing). I’m running another series of D&D adventures (the multi-level dungeon I mentioned on Twitter), and the group may rotate walkthrough write-up duties, so these posts will continue in a different form.